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Atlanta’s High Museum

The Wieland Pavilion's soaring 85-foot-high lobby, with white-oak floors (like those used throughout the new galleries) and floor-to-ceiling glass walls that overlook the piazza, functions as the new entrance to the complex. Selections from the High's contemporary art collection are in the fourth-floor, or Skyway, galleries of the pavilion, and include works by Tony Smith, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, and Thomas Struth, with rooms devoted to Gerhard Richter and Ellsworth Kelly; special exhibitions are mounted on the second floor. Outside the lobby is an open-air terrace dedicated to Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's large-scale sculpture of peaches and pears, made of reinforced plastic and steel cable, titled Balzac Pétanque (2002). Galleries devoted to African art and works on paper, and a study center, are on a lower level. The Anne Cox Chambers Wing, connected to the Wieland Pavilion by a glass bridge at the fourth level, will house additional temporary exhibitions.

The existing museum, renamed the Stent Family Wing, was refurbished in time for its 20th anniversary in 2003. Galleries that had been reconfigured over the years to accommodate a crush of visitors and new acquisitions were returned to Meier's original scheme and are now filled with 14th- to early-20th-century paintings, sculpture, and decorative art from the High's permanent collection. The top floor houses extensive holdings of folk art, mostly from the South.

In October 2006, the High and the Musée du Louvre will launch an ambitious and unprecedented three-year exchange of exhibitions and programs. The exchange grew out of a history of collaboration between Shapiro and the Louvre's director, Henri Loyrette, when Loyrette headed the Musée d'Orsay. The Chambers Wing will host a series of shows drawn from the Louvre's various collections. There will also be an exchange of staff between the Paris and Atlanta institutions."I think it's a deeper partnership than has ever existed between two museums," says Shapiro. Though the collaboration will not add to the High's permanent collection, it will allow the museum to display some of the Louvre's masterpieces while it bolsters its own contemporary holdings.

The possibility of seeing masterworks by Velázquez and Raphael from the Louvre as well as selections from the High's permanent collection, with the bonus of viewing—and visiting—buildings by two Pritzker Prize–winning architects and spending time in one of Atlanta's most urbane public spaces, should prove an irresistible draw. As David Brenneman, the High's chief curator, says, "We hope people come for the art, but it's also okay if they come for a drink. We want to be a lively place in the city."

HIGH MUSEUM OF ART, 1280 Peachtree St. N.E.; 404/733-4400; www.high.org.

RAUL BARRENECHE is a contributing editor for T+L.

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